Atomic Fireballs … who can forget them? Red, round, and wrapped individually in cellophane or a bunch of mini ones in a little yellow box, and HOT! HOT! HOT! These were medieval torture devices when I was little.
When I was 6 years old, my 10 year-old brother offered me one of these deceptive red balls from his Halloween stash. I, innocently, let him place it on my tongue and started to suck on it. Sweet was the first sensation… followed by cinnamon and then the immediate BURN. I spat the devil ball across the room and gasped for air. My brother laughed and called me a wimp. That was one of many brotherly scars on my delicate young psyche.
Determined to not be a “wimp,” and become great in the eyes of my big brother, I started seeking out Atomic Fireballs at the local 7-11 convenience store every time we went in. I can’t remember for sure, but I believe they were 2 cents each (maybe they were a nickel). I started to stash them in my underwear drawer. When no one was around I would take one out and try to hold it in my mouth as long as I could stand.
This took practice. I would hold the fireball in my mouth, and then I would have to spit it out into my hand and wait for my tongue to return to normal. I remember looking at the red liquidy dye it left on my fingers. I learned that if I kept it in my cheek and away from my tongue, I could stand it. The only problem with the cheek trick is that it felt like I was cheating. In retrospect, my Basic Training in the US Air Force was a breeze compared to what it took to get used to those red demon spheres.
I finally got them down pat and I could suck on an entire one in the middle of my mouth without spitting it out. Whenever my brother and I went to the store, I would buy one and make sure that he was watching when I put it in my mouth. He probably didn’t care, but I felt proud. They still hurt, but I could take the pain. I ate so many that I actually started getting nauseous just from their sugary cinnamon smell. Mom eventually found my stash. She freaked out and threw them all away. I had about 100 stored in there by that time. It was about 10 years before I had one again.
They say that we lose our taste buds as we get older, and maybe that is why lettuce tastes okay now, and Atomic Fireballs can be tolerated and enjoyed…. to a point.
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